18/10/2017 12:04 SAST | Updated 18/10/2017 12:51 SAST

Brian Dames: SA Has No Need For More Nuclear Power

“There is absolutely no need for [new] nuclear… we have no need for it."

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

South Africa cannot afford more nuclear power, former Eskom CEO Brian Dames told MPs on Wednesday.

Dames is testifying before Parliament's public enterprises committee, which is conducting an investigation into corruption and maladministration at the utility and two other state-owned companies.

Responding to a question on whether it was desirable to build new nuclear power stations in South Africa, Dames said they were not needed.

"There is absolutely no need for [new] nuclear... we have no need for it. Secondly, I don't think we can afford it," he said.

His comment comes a day after President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet, moving Security Minister David Mahlobo into the post of Energy Minister.

Unions, NGOs and opposition parties have interpreted this as a manoeuvre to advance the nuclear deal South Africa is seeking to strike with Russia.

Dames said the inquiry was too late.

"You should have done this a long time ago," he said at the start of his testimony.

Following a long career with Eskom, which started in 1987, Dames served as CEO from 2010, before stepping down in 2014.

"This committee inquiry is commendable. But too late, you should have done this a long time ago.

"When I left you may not have been too concerned, but when some of my team left, you should have been hugely concerned," he told MPs.

Responding to questions from the committee's evidence leader, parliamentary advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Dames said that over a period of six to nine months around the time he resigned, Eskom had lost "over a 100 years of management experience".

He told the committee: "You should have been very, very worried."

Dames said the "tone" at Eskom had changed in 2010, after then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba overhauled the Eskom board.

"The tone changed when the new board came in."

Dames also sketched details of a communications breakdown between Eskom management and the new board, under newly-appointed chairman Zola Tsotsi.

Dames said he had been "cut out of involvement" with suppliers, and there had been instances, in the matter involving the tenders for new steam generators at Koeberg, when "the board would know things I did not know".

Further, it had "become difficult to vouch for governance".

"The respect was lost," he said.

Asked to describe his decision to resign, Dames said he had known just after the World Cup in 2010 that he was going to leave Eskom.

During this period, in 2013, he had received a death threat in the form of a letter made up of words clipped out of a newspaper.

In his final months at Eskom, he had needed protection.

"There were always three security people with me," he told MPs.